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Review of  Lexical Properties of Selected Non-native Morphemes of English

Reviewer: Evanthia Petropoulou
Book Title: Lexical Properties of Selected Non-native Morphemes of English
Book Author: Heike Baeskow
Publisher: Narr Verlag GmbH + Co. KG
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): English
Book Announcement: 16.1238

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Date: Sun, 17 Apr 2005 11:23:35 +0300
From: Evanthia Petropoulou <>
Subject: Lexical Properties of Selected Non-native Morphemes of English

AUTHOR: Baeskow, Heike
TITLE: Lexical Properties of Selected Non-native Morphemes of English
SERIES: Tübinger Beiträge zur Linguistik 482
PUBLISHER: Narr Verlag GmbH + Co. KG
YEAR: 2004

Evanthia Petropoulou, Department of Philology, University of Patras


The book presents a feature-based description of complex words in English,
containing at least one non-native morpheme which does not occur as an
independent word in English. It contains an introduction and two long
chapters, dealing with derivation and compounding respectively.


In the introduction the notion of ''compatibility'' between the morphemes
involved in a morphological process is presented as an important
prerequisite for the process to be successful. In a derivational one, this
means that ''the suitability of a base to serve as an input to affixation
depends on its lexical properties''(1). Compatibility between affixes and
bases can be described either with a Word Formation Rule or a
subcategorization frame, but as this is only feasible in cases of bases
which constitute independent words in English, belonging to one of the
major grammatical categories, other ways are required to show
compatibility between bound bases and affixes in words such as 'nihil-
ism', 'conscious' and 'mortal'. For this reason, the framework presented
by Baeskow is a feature-based one rather than one making use of
traditional categorical labels such as N, A, V, etc.

The first chapter of the book introduces in detail, the theoretical
framework of this study, a morpheme-based framework, provided by the
feature-based theory of word formation, MinLex, initiated by Baeskow
(2002), which is in turn based on the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1993,
1995) which dispenses with categorial labels in favour of feature
representations of lexical items. Through the presentation of different
features ([+/- nominal], [+/- human], phi-features, etc.) the writer shows
the advantage of a feature-based theory over a theory using categorial
labels in the ''precise specification of the input and the output of
derivational processes'' (9). After a discussion favouring a morpheme-based
theory of word formation the writer presents a feature-based analysis of
derivation, by gradually building up the lexical entry for the suffix '-
ism', which is a good example as it constitutes a very productive affix in
English and a complex case at the same time, as its derivatives assign to
it a dual membership in the affix classes I & II, defined in the theory of
Lexical Phonology by selecting both bound roots at Level 1 and free bases
at Level 2. For the ''optimal encoding'' of such an item, a phonological
feature is required, which constitutes a separate component of the
lexicon, referred to as the ''Phonetic Form of Lexical Items (PFLI)''(19).
The formal features of a lexical entry are those morphosyntactic features
([+/- count], [+/- concrete], [+/- common], etc.) which serve as the
categorial labels, thus making them redundant and in a derivational
process are those percolated from an affix to its derivatives.

An important feature is the ''subcategorization frame'' which imposes
restrictions on a suffix's potential input (20) and is different from one
affix to the other. The subcategorization frame for '-ism' consists of
three parts -- all of which are thoroughly built up -- as the potential
input of this particular suffix may be classified under the categories N,
A and V. The peculiarity of the suffix '-ism', that it selects the same
bound bases with the verbal suffix '-ize' (e.g. 'baptism', 'baptize'),
creates a challenge, as the relationship of the two suffixes in this
respect needs to be shown in the subcategorization frame, but without
yielding non-existing forms like *bapt or wrong formations like *baptize-
ism. This however gives Baeskow the opportunity to show the advantage of a
feature-based theory with a morpheme-based approach, where features can be
assigned both to the suffix '-ize' and to the bound root 'bapt-', thus
making it available for selection to the suffix '-ism' via the operations
SELECT and INSERT (26). Under this process, in the theory
described, ''derivational processes are thus morpheme-based although
affixes are allowed to make use of the lexical content of the lexemes
realized by certain bound roots'' (27). The semantic representation of the
lexical entry reveals only the approximate meaning of lexical items, while
the formal representation, just like the phonological information which is
processed at PFLI, belongs to the separate lexical interface level LFLI,
which also interacts with the lexical entries.

After completing the lexical entry for a suffix, Baeskow deals with the
specification of the lexical properties of those non-native morphemes
similar to 'bapt-' serving as bases in some specific derivatives, which
are not part of the English language, such as 'nihil-', 'credul-',
'manu-', etc. Their compatibility with the suffixes '-ism', '-ous' and '-al'
respectively is difficult to be represented in the subcategorization frame
of each suffix, because they lack morphosyntactic properties other than
[-Germanic]. Various solutions are examined by Baeskow who adopts that of
a ''configuration frame'' for each of these morphemes which indicates
specific suffixes and in this way accounts for the compatibility between
the morphemes and the suffixes, preventing overgeneration at the same
time. An important point raised by Baeskow, throughout this chapter is
that the interpretability of foreign bases varies among the speakers of
English, as there are people not only with intuitions about
the 'foreignness' of some of these morphemes but also with a partial or
more extensive knowledge of Latin or Greek etymology. Thus, under
an ''optional diachronic perspective'', MinLex should also include some
etymological information, referred to as the ''epsilon-feature''.
Considering also the fact that some word formation patterns in the
languages of origin have been transferred to English, as the case
of 'baptize' and 'baptism' indicates, the epsilon-feature could also
include this kind of information apart from that concerning the origin of
the bound morpheme (i.e. [+ Greek] / [+ Latin]).

The second half of the book deals with the other major word formation
process involving non-native morphemes, namely compounding, or so-
called ''neoclassical compounding''. A great part is devoted to presenting
and reviewing the already existing analyses concerning the treatment of
the constituents of neoclassical compounds and the processes in which they
are involved. Concluding on the one hand, that these morphemes do not
constitute affixes and on the other, that they cannot be treated as
regular compounds either, Baeskow treats them under a special class of
compounds. She then presents the different types of compounds involving
non-native formatives starting from the prototype of neoclassical
compounding and moving to cases diverging from it. As for the prototype,
Baeskow argues that it concerns 1) the combination of two or more bound
roots of classical origin, as for example in 'microscope', 'telephone',
'geograph-' (72), or 2) the combination of a free and a bound root, both
of which are classical in origin, such as 'zoolog-', 'biolog-',
'oceanograph-' (73). There are few discrepancies here, though. First,
it is not specified whether the items constituting prototypical neoclassical
compounds are free lexemes or bound compound bases. For example, 'microscope' and 'telephone' are independent words in English, while 'zoolog-' and 'oceanograph-' are not lexemes, but potential bases for derivation. Second, in category 2) there is semantic evidence against the view that 'zoo' in 'zoolog-' is an independent word in English, as in this case it
refers to the Greek zóon (= animal), not to the area where animals are kept.
If the above combinations, described as prototypes ''are selected by suffixes
we obtain well-formed sequences like biolog-y, [...] geograph-er,'' (73) etc.,
a process described by Cannon (1992) as ''neoclassical compound derivation''
(488). However, if we assume that the latter process yields lexemes, then
what morphological process assigns a lexemic status to the above mentioned
'telephone' and 'microscope'?

The discussion then moves to ''hybrid formations'' (74), which combine
native free with neoclassical bound morphemes. As the writer notes, these
constitute violations of the classical word formation pattern (77), found
in 'biology', 'anthropomorphic' (ten Hacken 1994), 'geographer' and so on,
which actually imitate the formation pattern of Greek compounds (Ralli
2005), for example [[bio (stem) + log (stem)] -ia (deriv. suffix)], as the
formations 'baptize' and 'baptism', mentioned earlier, do. Baeskow,
examines separately formations of the type 'native root + FCF', for
e.g. 'hamburgerology' or 'jazzophile' and of the type, i.e. native lexeme,
for e.g. 'telecommunications', 'microgroove' and 'biofeedback' (the terms
ICF and FCF, introduced by Bauer (1983), and here used throughout the
whole chapter, Baeskow explains, ''constitute rather abstract notions for
the position a bound root can occupy within a neoclassical compound'' (91)
and are used for convenience).

Formations of the second type, 'ICF + freely occurring constituent', are
considered as violating the Level ordering, causing a discrepancy in the
hierarchy of MinLex. What the writer correctly proposes, is that elements
such as 'micro-', 'tele-' and 'bio-' could be ''reinterpreted'' as class II
prefixes without being recategorized as affixes (78) and can thus combine
with free native constituents, be they simple or complex at level 2. Then
formations like 'microgroove' and 'biofeedback' would be normally
generated. Indeed, as it has been elsewhere stated, there are certain
Greek and Latin prefixes which have retained the status of a prefix in
English, such as 'hypo-', 'meta-', 'intra-', 'supra-' (Adams 2001), and
some neoclassical formatives which are in the process of becoming
prefixes, such as 'bio-', 'techno-'. Warren (1990) notes that ''we find
combining forms, particularly among initial combining forms, which have
developed characteristics of affixes'', citing 'pseudo-' and neo-' as
examples (124). A close look at the combinations of 'bio-' and 'techno-'
with native lexemes from a semantic viewpoint reveals that they are
different from those in prototypical neoclassical compounds. 'Bio-'
in 'biocomputer' and 'biophysics' refers to 'biology' and would rather be
considered a clipped form, as 'techno-' in 'technofreak' refers
to 'technology'. Bauer (1983) discusses 'bio-' in the same respect as
being a very productive formative occurring in many word families, citing
a dictionary's definition of it, as 'biological' (Barnhart et al. 1973).
In the end of this section, Baeskow further supports the behavior of these
elements as class II prefixes, at the phonological level.

The last section in turn contains the feature representation of the bound
morphemes previously discussed, which is gradually built up mainly for the
bound morpheme 'phon', as it was for the suffix '-ism' in the previous
chapter and shares with it many features. One important difference is that
the lexical entry for 'phon' includes a configuration frame instead of a
subcategorization frame, as that of 'nihil', because as it has been argued
in the theoretical discussion, neoclassical bound roots appearing both in
word-initial and word-final position are not affixes. The configuration
frame also includes the thematic vowel 'o' or 'i', which is shown to be
determined by the word-initial neoclassical formative and at PFLI is
represented as a floating vowel. According to this, a linking vowel is
inserted depending on the ending of what functions as an ICF each time, be
it a neoclassical combining form (e.g. 'phon') or a lexeme turning to an
ICF (e.g. 'magnet'). The neoclassical formative 'path', however, receives
ICFs which either end in a vowel (e.g. 'allopathy', 'antipathy', 'telepathy'),
or in a consonant and do not require the epenthesis of 'o', such as 'syn' and
'en', which assimilate the /n/ to /m/ before the voiceless bilabial stop /p/
(e.g. in 'sympathy' and 'empathy'). For this reason, it is suggested that a
configuration frame idiosyncratic to 'path' is created (95). However, it has
to be pointed out here, that this is not valid only for 'path', but also
for 'phon' in 'symphony' and 'chron' in 'synchrony' and many others,
because what they receive is actually a prefix and not a stem. Prefixes
are different from other combining morphemes, they appear only word
initially and if they end in a consonant, in most cases, this is
assimilated before the next consonant. The reason why there is no linking
vowel in the words 'sympathy', 'empathy', 'synchrony', 'symphony',
'synthetic' and others is because they constitute cases of derivation
rather than compounding and the linking vowel appears only in compounding.
So, they should be treated in a different way from other word-initial
combining forms. In my opinion, the problem arising here is partly due to the
overuse of the terms 'ICF' and 'FCF', which are used for convenience, but
do not discern between different kinds of formatives. Finally, the chapter
ends with an optional etymological component for bi- or multilingual


This book succeeds in presenting us with the lexical properties of
selected non-native morphemes in English. It does not only provide us with
unique complete feature-based descriptions of the selected items, but from
a theoretical point of view, it offers well-founded argumentation for the
points it asserts from many fields of linguistics apart from morphology,
such as semantics, phonology and first language acquisition, an important
characteristic of scientifically good study. Although, it could be argued
that the selective treatment it offers does not suffice for all cases, an
enterprise that would only be feasible within a project on a large-scale
basis, it has to be noted that the selection of the particular morphemes
offers very important insights and makes their treatment suitable to serve
as an example for the treatment of other non-native morphemes.


Adams, Valerie (2001) Complex Words in English. Essex: Pearson Education

Baeskow, Heike (2002) Abgeleitete Personenbezeichnungen im Deutschen und
Englischen. Kontrastive Wortbildungsanalysen im Rahmen des
Minimalistischen Programms und unter Berücksichtigung sprachhistorischer
Aspekte. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter (Dissertation, Universität Wuppertal

Barnhart, Robert K., Sol Steinmetz and Clarence L. Barnhart (1990) Third
Barnhart Dictionary of New English. New York: Wilson.

Bauer, Laurie (1983) English Word Formation. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Cannon, G. (1992) ''Bound-Morpheme Items: New Patterns of Derivation'' in:
C. Blank (ed): Language and Civilization: A Concerted Profusion of Essays
and Studies in Honour of Otto Hietsch. Frankfurt: Peter Lang Publishers,
pp. 478-494.

Chomsky, Noam (1993) ''A minimalist program for linguistic theory'' in:
K.Hale and S. J. Keyser (eds.) The View from Building 20. Cambridge, Mass:
The MIT Press, pp. 1-52.

Chomsky, Noam (1995) The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT

ten Hacken, Pius (1994) Defining Morphology. A Principled Approach to
Determining the Boundaries of Compounding, Derivation and Inflection.
Hildesheim: Olms.

Warren, Beatrice (1990) 'The importance of combining forms' in: Wolfgang
Dressler et al. (eds) Contemporary Morphology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Ralli, Angeliki (2005) Morphologia. Athens: Patakes. (in Greek)

Evanthia Petropoulou has participated in the SNSF-Research Program "Word
Formation as a Structuring Device in English and Italian Lexicons: A large-
scale exploration", at the University of Basel, as a research
lexicographer. At the moment she is a PhD student at the Department of
Philology, University of Patras, Greece. Her research focuses on the
process of compounding as this is realised in Greek, English and Italian.

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